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AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G Review

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The AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G isn’t just another dedicated mobile hotspot device, but it’s AT&T’s first mobile hotspot device with 4G LTE support. AT&T has been aggressively rolling out their 4G LTE network over the past couple of months. They have also been launching more and more 4G LTE smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S II SkyRocket, LG Nitro HD, and HTC Vivid. But the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G is AT&T’s first and only dedicated 4G LTE mobile hotspot.

Measuring 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches, and weighing 3.6 ounces, the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G is nearly as big and heavy as a smartphone, and bigger than many other MiFis, but it’s still plenty pocketable. It also sports a 1.77″ LCD screen which provides users with useful status information including a usage meter. This 160 x 128 display is even a color LCD, except the only color you’ll see on it, is from the AT&T logo on the loading screen.

We tested the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G in both Las Vegas and Manhattan. AT&T has officially rolled out 4G LTE in both cities, but in Manhattan the coverage area does not yet include all of the city, although AT&T is working to grow the coverage area all around New York City. With that said, we experienced amazing speeds in both cities. In Vegas we experienced an average between 10 to 20Mbps down, and 10Mbps up. In New York we experienced download speeds at an average of 18Mbps, and upload speeds around 17Mbps! In both cases, when running on AT&T’s 4G LTE network not only did web sites pop up with speed, but we could even stream 720P YouTube videos without a hitch.

When 4G LTE isn’t available, the Elevate will fall back on AT&T’s 4G HSPA+ network, or their 3G HSDPA network. The device can also work internationally too for when you’re traveling. Just don’t forget to add on AT&T’s international data plan before you use it, or you’ll live to regret it afterwards.

We even tested the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G during CES. Every year during CES, the 3G and 4G networks in Vegas get bombarded by the influx of techies all using their data connections to the max. The Elevate did choke a bit under these conditions, as speeds did get a bit slower, but the device was still plenty usable – even under all the pressure that the LTE network was under! In contrast, under these congested network conditions, our 4G smartphones could barely make a call, send a text message, or pull up a web site half of the time, so this speaks a lot for the Elevate’s capabilities – as well as AT&T’s growing 4G LTE network.

Battery life for the Elevate 4G is supposed to be about 5 hours. However, we experienced a bit over 3 hours on average. However, that was with 4 people using the device at the same time, and with the device fluctuating between 4G LTE and 4G.

Unfortunately, a couple of times the device lost signal and we had to restart the device, so the Elevate’s software is still a bit buggy. But we’re hoping that a firmware upgrade will fix these issues. Also, like with other MiFis we have tested, if you charge the device via USB from your computer, it takes a really long time to charge. So the most efficient way to charge the device is via an outlet – but that isn’t always the most convenient way to charge it while you’re traveling.

One of the aspects we love about the Elevate, aside from its amazing 4G LTE speeds, is its helpful LCD display. The display not only indicates battery power, signal strength, and data usage, but it also shows the current password for your Wi-Fi network name and key. This is such an obvious feature to have, it’s a wonder why older mobile hotspot devices haven’t had it.

Overall, the AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G is smartest MiFi we have ever tested, and also the fastest. We love that the LCD has a usage meter. This is essential to have, considering that with 4G LTE you’ll find yourself doing a lot of data intensive tasks like streaming HD movies etc. But the biggest question is, how relevant are dedicated mobile hotspot devices anymore when most of the new 4G LTE smartphones double as hotspots. That said, it’s crazy when you consider that the Elevate is capable of speeds faster than my own home’s cable internet connection, so it could theoretically replace some people’s home internet connections – as long as they keep their data consumption under 5GB. The AT&T Mobile Hotspot Elevate 4G can be picked up at Amazon for just $0.01 with a new contract, and a 5GB plan runs $50 a month.

The Good: Provides super fast 4G LTE speeds where available, convenient LCD displays data usage and Wi-Fi key, works internationally, pretty good battery life

The Bad: Device can be a bit buggy and require restarts at times